Learning Disorders

The most common reasons for adults (and older adolescents) to seek testing for learning problems are as follows.

1. To ascertain the presence of a true disability that may qualify for accommodations when taking college entrance exams such as the SAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.

The administrators of college entrance exams recognize that some students with learning problems are at a significant disadvantage on standardized tests compared to peers. As such, the boards recognize that accommodations may allow such students to show their true potential on college entrance exams.

Typical accommodations may include:

  • extended time on exams (amount varies)
  • testing in a distraction-free environment
  • extra breaks

However, test publishers and educational institutions have established high standards to demonstrate that accommodations are appropriate. A true disability must be objectively and rigorously identified. The diagnosis of learning disorder alone does not automatically justify the need for accommodations. Often a combination of psychoeducational testing, neuropsychological testing, and psychological testing is required to meet the stringent criteria for accommodations set forth by test publishers. It can be difficult for a student to find and obtain such comprehensive testing from one source.

Our group works closely with the student and his/her parents in collecting and organizing all supportive documentation including personal, medical, and academic history. In addition to comprehensive psychoeducational testing, we administer a wide range of neuropsychological tests to provide supportive documentation of disability in the areas of attention/concentration, intelligence, memory, processing speed, motor skills, visual-spatial skills, language skills, and executive functions. Psychological testing (i.e., mood, personality, and behavior) may also be administered to rule out alternative diagnoses. This information is integrated into a detailed, comprehensive report showing diagnoses, requested accommodations, and objective rationale for each if indicated by the data.

It is important to note that learning disorder testing is rarely covered by insurance companies and that testing for accommodations is usually an out-of-pocket expense.

2. To ascertain the presence of a true disability that may qualify for accommodations when taking graduate admission or professional tests such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT. The level and comprehensiveness of this testing is the same as that required for college entrance exams.

3. To justify the need for accommodations when taking college-level coursework.

The level of testing required to determine the need for classroom accommodations varies from college to college. The strictest colleges require the same level of justification as that required for college entrance exams. Other colleges are less strict and may require a diagnosis only.

Typical accommodations may  include:

  • extended time on tests
  • testing in an distraction free environment
  • permission to record lectures
  • textbooks in audio format

4. Self knowledge. Some adults are not necessarily seeking testing for any specific accommodations. However, they wish to better understand why they had to struggle so hard in school and in various life endeavors compared to their peers. Why did their reading and math come so hard? Why did they have to study 2-3 time longer than their peers and then still earn lower grades?

Children and adolescents

The most common reasons for testing for learning problems among children and adolescents are as follows.

1. To diagnose the presence and type of learning disorder for the purposes of developing a treatment program to compensate for these problems.

Parents are often bewildered by their child’s lack of academic process. Many children with LD are identified early in their academic careers. However, some adolescents and young adults with more subtle learning disorders may go undetected until middle school or high school. Such students may have been able to minimize their deficits due to their high intelligence and/or sheer persistence until the complexity and amount of work reached a critical level of difficulty. There are also different types of learning disability and not all students fit the typical model.

Unfortunately, private schools do not usually offer psychoeducational testing. Parents with children in private school often have difficulty finding specialists to evaluate their child’s or adolescent’s academic functioning.

2. Justification for specific accommodations. Comprehensive psychoeducational testing can provide the framework necessary to identify and address problems with undiagnosed reading, math, and writing deficits. Accommodations may place students on an even playing field with peers so that they are less handicapped by their learning disorder.

Typical accommodations may include:

  • extended time on tests
  • testing in an distraction free environment
  • assignment of a note-taker for the student
  • obtain copies of teacher notes ahead of time
  • allow for textbooks in audio format

3. Faster turn-around on testing. The process of obtaining testing through the public school system is often slow. An ARD meeting is usually required to justify the need for testing and to allocate the resources from the school budget before the testing can be scheduled. Sometimes, the school system may disagree with the need for testing. If testing is approved, there is often a backlog of testing to be scheduled by the school. From start to finish, the process may require several months for testing to occur. In the meantime, the student may fall further behind.

4. A second opinion. At times, we are asked by parents for a second opinion if they disagree with the test findings of the school. This additional information may be presented to the school system for further consideration.

At the time of making an appointment, it is important that the student and his/her parents specifically identify the purpose of testing as being for possible accommodations, so that the appropriate forms may be sent out ahead of time.